John 3:22-36 The glory of the church is in its ability to help people find their calling in Christ

John 3:22-36 The glory of the church is in its ability to help people find their calling in Christ

22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized — 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison. Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification.

26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” 27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, ’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him. ’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

31 “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Background

A discussion arose among John’s disciple concerning the rising profile of Jesus’s ministry. John reminded his disciples of his calling as forerunner of Christ. He spoke about Christ as the divinely appointed King and Judge of the world. A minister’s mission is not to raise his own profile but to point people to Christ so that they may find their calling and enter the kingdom. In today’s devotion, we learn: The glory of the church is in its ability to help people find their calling in Christ.

Observation

A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

During a discussion concerning rites of purification with a Jew, the disciples of John noticed Jesus’s disciples baptising alongside them. And it dawn upon them what seemed like a competing ministry pioneered by their teacher (Rabbi), John the Baptist. It was for them a cause for concern as many who once followed John were now going to Jesus. John took the occasion to clarify his mission and calling. For a minister must work within the confines of his calling and not to stray from it.

Most importantly, John is not the Christ, but have been sent ahead of Him to prepare the people to receive Christ when He comes (‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’). John uses the analogy of the bridegroom and the friend of the bridegroom; of which Jesus is the bridegroom, John is the friend of the bridegroom, and the people of Israel is the bride. And the friend of the bridegroom is tasked to prepare the bride, to get her ready for the arrival of the bridegroom.

So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.

The friend of the bridegroom looks forward to the arrival of the bridegroom. He rejoices when his mission is fulfilled; when the bridegroom meets the bride. Hence, it is timely that John retreat from the fore and for the bridegroom to take centre stage. John, in saying ”He must increase, but I must decrease” declares that his mission as forerunner as coming to a close. John will now decrease for Jesus must increase and take His place as King of Israel and of the world. That said, he will continue to minister alongside Christ’s disciples in pointing the people to Him.

He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth

John, having explained why he must decrease from the perspective of calling, he now explains from the perspective of Christ’s divinity. Firstly, Christ, God’s incarnate is born of a virgin, while John was of normal birth. Secondly, Christ is perfect and untainted by sin, while John is numbered with sinners. Therefore, Christ, as being fully divine…

a. He is fully qualified to speak on God’s behalf (For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God.)

b. He is appointed as the giver of the Spirit, the founder of the New Covenant through which humanity find salvation (for He gives the Spirit without measure.)

c. He is appointed by God as King over all creation (The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.)

d. He is appointed by God as Judge over humanity (He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life.)

Nevertheless, John cautions his disciples that the Christ will not be well received by the people because the values of heaven are diametrically opposed to that of the earth ( What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.) However, those who receive Him will hold onto His word as coming from God despite oppositions ( He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.)

Truth

A man must accomplish what has been given him from heaven, not what he has not

John the Baptist was given from heaven the mission to prepare the Jewish people to receive Christ as King when He came. For that he preached repentance from evil so that they may enter the kingdom, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). For without repentance, no one could recognise Jesus as God’s appointed King and enter in. Thus, he warned the Pharisees and Sadducees to repent and not be complacent because of their heritage (see Matthew 3:7-8). He spoke about the Christ who will baptise those who are penitent with the Holy Spirit but, and who will judge those who are impenitent with unquenchable fire (see Matthew 3:11-12).

When Jesus came onto the scene, after being anointed as the Christ, some of his disciples left him to follow Jesus. One can imagine John contriving to hand over his flock to Jesus. However, John showed no such struggle in this respect, but demonstrated clear headedness in his calling and mission.

Many ministers started off well. With sincerity of heart, they served Him. However, after amassing a sizeable following, they strayed from their original mission being lured by power, fame and wealth. Ministers eyed one another with envy; they suppose being successful is having something glamorous to show for. Such churches are saturated with programmes that drive membership and keep their members warm. Their “round and about” way of teaching packs entertainment with little conviction and urgency. When ministers get sloppy in their teachings, they harp on milk themes surrounding forgiveness of sins, and blessings. Because their teachings are shallow, members lack discernment in the way of righteousness. As a result, many stumbled when worldly teachings infiltrated the church causing their hearts to stray.

Similarly, for the laity, most are focused on earning money rather than creating positive impact in the society. Many are climbing the corporate ladder and jostling for the hot seat. Few have the welfare of their company at heart. They did many impressive things which God has not called them to. Such may appear accomplished on earth, but from God’s perspective, a total failure.

For parents, many are concerned about their children’s academic performances, hoping that they may one day become rich and powerful. But few are really concerned about their children’s character development and spirituality. They fussed about their children not getting enough tuition but paid no attention to prayer and bible reading.

The minister and believer’s mission is primarily to point people to Christ and to make the world a better place. Hence, believers are to serve as models so that people may see Christ in them and emulate Him. How does God judge our lives’ work? Based on today’s standards, Jesus and Paul would have no standing before God, having lost their congregations at the close of their lives. But they are honoured as the stars in the heavens having given all to accomplish their missions on earth.

The glory of the church is in its ability to help people find their calling in Christ

It is man’s base instinct to use another to fulfil one’s personal agenda. Companies allocate fewer resources to their employees’ yearly training budget. They compete by poaching one another’s employees instead of upgrading their own workforce. Companies milk their employees, and employees use companies for their personal progress. But the greatest is one who help another find his calling and fulfil it. John the Baptist is considered by Jesus as one who is more than a prophet. In fact, he is the greatest of those born of women (see Matthew 11:9,11) because he helped usher Jesus into His calling as Christ, the Messiah. Similarly, one’s greatest moments are when he help others find their calling and fulfil it.

Christian organisations must differ in purpose and ethos from commercial companies. The church exists to help believers discover and fulfil their heavenly calling in Christ. Churches are not to treat their members as packing material to increase their size. For each are fearfully and wonderfully made for a specific call and purpose. Therefore, the church must do all to disciple their flock so that they may fulfil their calling, not just to keep them in attendance to fulfil the ego of their leaders. Therefore, a glorious church is one that helps its flock discover their individual calling and fulfil it.

John the Baptist did not amass a following in order fulfil his ego. He redirects them to Christ in order that each may grow and find their calling in Christ. The glory of a church is not determined by the size of its Sunday crowd, but by its ability to help people find their calling in Christ.

Application

Do you have a clearer understanding and vision of God’s calling for your life?

  • If you are a teacher, your calling is to bring out the best in your students.
  • If you are a manager, your calling is to help your subordinates in their character and skills development.
  • If you are a worker, your calling is to be salt and light of the world. To establish justice, mercy and humility wherever you are.
  • If you are a minister, your calling is to help the flock connect with God by teaching the bible accurately and to help them find their calling.
  • If you are a husband/wife, your calling is to sanctify your spouse so that you may present her/him perfect to God.
  • If you are a parent, your calling is to bring up your children in the likeness of Christ and help them discover their own calling.

Dear Lord, I thank you for calling me and ordaining me towards a glorious calling. Prepare me for this calling and use me to point others to Christ. Strengthen me and use me to establish justice, mercy and humility at my workplace and community. Cause me to speak the gospel of truth boldly so that they may be saved. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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